Black Flag - Louie Louie [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Black Flag

Louie Louie [7-inch] (1981)

Posh Boy

In retrospect, it was pretty ballsy of Black flag to cover “Louie Louie”, perhaps, the most iconic rock song of all time. It was equally ballsy for the band to debut their new singer, long time band pal, Dez Cadena. But, Black flag was equally ballsy and blissfully unaware of how their actions effected people, so in 1981, the band released their next statement.

Yet, “Louie Louie” was no mere cover. Perhaps similar to Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner,” it wasn’t clear if the band was saluting or trashing the song. They took the core skeleton and beefed up the riffs with Greg Ginn’s iconic shattering lines, so the song felt like it was in a state of constant break down. Meanwhile, Cadena’s classic Malboro vocals stood in sharp contrast to previous vocalists Keith Morris and Ron Reyes. Cadena’s voice had a heavy singularity. Sounding older than his twenty years, Cadena sounded like a trashed maniac getting ready to party, with his definition of “party” being wildly different than the standard. This of course, was highlighted by his lyrical additions of “who needs love when you’ve got a gun / who needs love to have any fun?!”

Perhaps, though, the flipside would come to define the band more than the A-side. “Damaged 1” was the band’s first iteration, of many, of the band’s mental health dissection. In the mostly spoken word track, Cadena laments and lashes out, dwelling on the concept that he’s in a bad place and probably won’t ever get out. Ginn too amplified his style, and more than ever before, reveled in cacophony and sour notes. Although the song is propelled by a simple, blocky riff, Ginn layered a near constant feedback over the top, making the entire song sound like a malfunction.

Maybe other songs would come to be associated with the band to a greater degree, but few exhibit the essence of the group like this 7-inch. Of course, the band was also drifting away from the party/manic joy heard in the earlier recordings and more towards an ultra nihilistic/depressed attitude. Depending on who you ask, this may the exact point where the band went from great to amazing, or from amazing to great and then to… well… taste is subjective.